Launch Slideshow

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The Replacements

The Replacements

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    Photo: Stephanie Diani/Getty Images

    Millennial Lindsey Mannan (left center) and Gen Xer Kathy Mahboubian (right center) are being groomed by their baby-boomer mentors Jill Thomas (left) and Alan Oswald to navigate the ins and outs of the Engineering & Building Department in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

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    Photo: Morton College

    Right: Since Morton College, Cicero, Ill., was refurbished to attract the latest generation of students, enrollment has increased. Two students share ideas over a laptop, which is built into a cubby wall that provides quiet computer space in the college's hallways.

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    Photo: Operations and Maintenance Division, Washington County, Ore.

    Ben Walnum gets acquainted with the public sector as an intern for Washington County's Department of Land Use and Transportation.

Case study: Apprenticeships, training incentives, cross training

Facing a skilled worker shortage? Grow your own skilled employees.

Skilled retirees and stay-at-home parents are not the only untapped sources of potential employees. Unexperienced candidates who demonstrate a talent for skilled positions can also fit the bill.

David Lippman, director of facilities and operations with the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in California, says the district doesn't rely on skill levels when hiring. Instead, employees are hired based on a mix of skills and aptitude. During the interview process, candidates are asked a variety of questions to determine aptitude. New hires then gain necessary skills through an apprenticeship program. His department also pays employees for completing applicable education programs and receiving certifications.

PUBLIC WORK'S 2007 Department of the Year honorable mention, the Polk County (Fla.) Fleet Management Division—which put together a recruitment video of employees talking about why they enjoy their jobs—also offers training incentives to cultivate skilled technicians. Employees earn a 10 cent/hour increase for each certification earned plus a 20 cent/hour bonus for achieving “Master” levels. Of the division's 40 employees, 25 technicians have collectively earned 227 Automotive Service Excellence certifications—on their own time.

Next, cross training helps current employees who already know the industry move into more skilled positions that would benefit both the employee and the employer.

“Whenever possible, I strongly encourage communities to grow and develop their inside talent for the top positions,” says management consultant Heidi Voorhees.